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Town Hall Committee about CNIB Library (Part 1)

Meeting Date: 
Saturday, October 29, 2011

Anthony requested a Roll Call of those in the room for questions and comments.


Donna Jodhan, President of the Alliance for Equity of Blind Canadians.

  • Welcomed everyone, thanked the participants for attending and the Town Hall Committee of Melanie Moore, Brian Moore, and moderators Jane Blaine, Richard Marion  (Pat (?) in Thunder Bay) and the rest of the committee. She thanked John Rafferty Marissa (?) for also attending. Expressed her hope that the meeting will kick off discussions and result in meaningful consultation.


Anthony: Requested roll call

Donna Jodhan – Alliance for Equity of Blind Canadians

Mara Wright – registered with the CNIB

Laurie Soute – leader of project for the new library

Dan and Pat Stenard (?) – Oakville

Darryl Jackard –  Fort Erie

Andrea Houtella – Toronto

Denzell Burker – Downsview

Neil Graham – Toronto

Sandy Clough - ___ Landing

Yin Brown – Toronto

Lisa Detell - CNIB

Debbie Galeski - CNIB

Robert Pearson - AMI

Georgina Laniss - AMI

Elizabeth Herdman -Toronto

John Rafferty – Markham

John Rafferty:

Thanks for inviting me, pleased to be here. Would like to do a quick walk through of the circulated document, this is the beginning of the discussion process of library model. Referring to the document: page 2: (imperative to act?), Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees protection of people with disabilities, only 5% of published works are available, the importance of literacy as it relates to education and employment, the growing multicultural needs. Canada only G8 country that does not have a sustainable model. Timeline we have been working on has been driven by the Library and Archive starting back in 2005 with the Canadian Library Association creating something called  “Opening the Book” which turned into IELA (Initiative for Equitable Library Access). The Library and Archives received a grant of $3 Million in 2007, to create a strategy for the implementation of IELA, which ended in the beginning of this year with their declaration that they are not going to do anything. In August of this year, the words of the document were importantly and purposefully chosen, it says that in the absence of a federally lead initiative to create a conceptual plan with the support of Library and Archives, we took on the project lead. We only took it on as no one else is doing it. If someone puts up their hand to take on this idea of creating this project we would happily walk away from it tomorrow. Trust me.  What we are doing in this process is trying to achieve what Library and Archives in their process while maintaining the principles that were there. In reality if there are only a few things we remember from today, before we get to comments and questions, the first page of 2 pages of the document “The Reality.” All stakeholders, including CNIB agree that access to information is a Charter right and the federal government should lead this initiative and that Canadians with a print disability should not need to rely on a charitable institution for library services.  We all agree, including the CNIB that libraries should not sit in the charity. The reality of where we are is that Library and Archives as a federal agent currently does not have the authority to negotiate directly with provinces as it relates to library services. Federal structure does not include national funding of library services. We are trying to create something which we call “The Hub,” When we say we are going to create it, CNIB is wanting to conceptually help with the creating of it so they do not own it. It is not us, it is something else so we can move away from doing this ourselves. So there’s a number of elements in here that are the reality of where we are today that are the common themes of hundreds and hundreds of pages of documentation over the last 6 or 7 years worth of conversations and those are the principles that we need to work towards. The CNIB reality is that a hundred years ago we started providing library services and at that stage of evolution in terms of social equality etc that is where library services fit and if we could roll back time to the 60s and 70s we should have been having the conversation then. The reality though - CNIBs reality is we currently still provide library services and we have over 26,000 people who receive library services and we send millions of copies of books out. So we need to find a way of transitioning from where it is and moving it into a public sustainable model that is not a charitable model.  That’s one of our goals. The one bullet on here that is important says if the concept of a central hub is not achieved, so if we are not successful in what we are trying to achieve here, which is to move the library away from CNIB, then on a go forward basis, CNIB is going to present our board with what  the options are and the board is going to have to balance the need of the library services with all the other services with all the other services that the CNIB provides in making their decision as to what we do. There’s a draft vision which is to create a nationwide digital library and information service organization that will support equitable services to Canadians with print disabilities, this is a draft vision. The vision needs to evolve based on the conversations we are starting today so that we know that it includes everything it should.  There are principles to the vision that we have put out here. Equality, sustainability, flexibility, innovation, quality of life, those are the principles of the vision that we want, but it’s a draft so we want input on that vision. We have identified all the different partnerships we need to have, from public libraries, educational libraries, end user communities to rec. service providers, governments, publishers, booksellers, foundations, corporations. So, we know who the partnerships are. There’s a draft supply chain that talks about the role.  We believe from the information we’ve received in the consultations we did with IELA that 5 years, 7 years, 10 years from now, in this future - we hope that it is around 5 years from now – with E-Pubs3 as a standard that all new content will be created in a way that will be accessible. But that is not where we are today. Today there is a need for some place centrally in the country not within a charity to create content, to add accessible content and provide it though libraries so that there is an equitable delivery of library service for people who are blind or partially sighted or otherwise print disabled.  And the supply chain that was submitted in that document was trying to show the role of this hub that we are hoping to create as this separate entity. Where it fits relevant to the publisher and the author vs the library and the provider vs the client or the end user. That was a draft supply chain. We are trying to simplify for all of these different stakeholder groups what does this really mean. The timeline is three phases. Phase 1 is developing a preliminary concept which is what Lori has done for us so that we can now start the consultation.  Phase 2 is to start then taking that through to the potential funders of this within the federal, provincial and municipal governments along with some of the private funding sources we have hoped to identify and Phase 3 would be how we get to implement it.  So Phase 1 which is where we are, we are right in the middle of that now we’ve developed this initial concept, this discussion document and now we need to start talking to the various stakeholder groups.

Today is really about the conversation that comes from this. Hopefully people were able to receive the document ahead of time and have gone through it. I am happy to answer whatever questions anybody has or embellish or add more to anything within the document.

Jane Blaine:

We are going to open the floor to your questions and comments now. We do have the list of those in the room. Over to Anthony for the details first.


So what we’ll do to make this easiest is go around the room in the order that you are already there. You will have 2 minutes to ask a question and we will give Mr. Rafferty up to 2 minutes to respond. If you just have a comment you will have 90 seconds - a minute and a half and we will give him 90 seconds to respond. We will give you a 30 second warning as far as that goes and you will have the option of a follow up question if there’s a quick 30 second question and answer coming out of your first question. At this point I think Melanie was first. If you don’t have anything right now - if you don’t have a comment or question you can just pass for now and we will come back to it.

Mara Wright – Is this a national, are you going to have hubs around the country in the major cities or is it just Toronto and is there going to be a pilot?

Rafferty: So we don’t actually have a pre conception as to physically where it would be so it doesn’t even have to be in Toronto, but yes the concept is one place that would be the creator or aggregator of content and the digital repository of content and then that content would be available through every public library, both community based as well as academically based libraries throughout the country.

MW: And would there be a pilot, pilot project first?

R: CNIB is in one way a pilot I suppose, if we call what we do today a pilot. We already do some of this and we are trying to move this to a model that takes it away from a charitable model and have it belong.

MW: But CNIB doesn’t partner with universities……

R: Partner with universities is too strong a term. There are universities that we work with from time to time do work with, but the concept of this hub is that this hub would partner with universities. Absolutely. We have had conversations with Ryerson, we have had conversations with Simon Fraser, and with McGill, so we have started those conversations to figure out how with this hub not just help provide this central place for public libraries but also for K-12 as well as post secondary libraries as well.

Darryl Jackard – Pass

Pat Stenard – Pass

Dan Stenard – What is important right now, is it that services are going to be available in every library because most of us probably access the CNIB library from home. OK, if you have a centralized hub that you can access at home or in a library, it doesn’t matter, you still have to log in to CNIB in the library. Right?

R: That’s today yes.

DS: That’s today. It is funded provincially?

R: Today, it’s not funded at all. The goal is to move the responsibility of the creation of the content and the housing that digital place you log into a central place that would be available or every public library. So you may still log in to your local public library from home, but the content you would access would be the content from this hub. So the starting place - if there was no such thing as an alternate format library anywhere in the country and CNIB didn’t do this, we would be starting from zero. As it is, CNIB already has things that we want to move away from CNIB into this public environment. So the starting point would be the collection that CNIB has, but it would then be owned by this separate not for profit that we are calling the hub and the hub would be responsible, moving forward, for creation of content. 

DS: So as of now, the library is owned by CNIB and is being funded by CNIB?

R: It is being funded by charitable donations, yes.

DS: so the CNIB is funded only by charitable, none provincial?

R: When it comes to library service, yes. Put on one side in the last 2 years we did ask for interim funding, so we did receive some interim funding, but there is no model for funding for library services for CNIB and there never has been it is the only G8 country that is like that. That’s why quite frankly it’s insulting to clients to people who are blind or partially sighted that they have to receive library services from a charity and CNIB agrees with that.  We don’t believe it belongs in a charitable environment.

DS: Absolutely.  So from CNIB’s point of view, the government does not even recognize a library.

R: Right. At a very simplistic level, governments, whether they are provincial, municipal or through federal transfers, funds libraries to the tune of $40 per Canadian per year, which is whatever that number works out to - $1.2 billion - and doesn’t fund the 836,000 people who can’t read print because of their vision and we want our $40 and that’s effectively what we are saying we need to move this. We being CNIB doesn’t want it, we want there to be a place where this funding exists for library services, we are not wanting this money to come to CNIB, we want the services to be provided.

Pat - Pass

Darrell - Pass

Andrea Houtella – The CNIB, because they have taken this on for so long they are really good at producing this material and figuring out how to get is all produced and onto the tape or onto the digital format. Is the model still going to be used and the sort of equipment that CNIB has to do this going to be used in the new thing?

JR: I would suggest that conceptually we believe that the starting point is the way CNIB does it as a model . I think that while I appreciate that there is a compliment there that what we do is good, but I think that we can probably do things a lot better as well if we have a more sustainable funding model. I would hope that we are certainly not going to go backwards but I think that what we do is good, but what we can do is take the existing model and make it better. 

Denzell Burker – Pass

Neil Graham – Thanks to John for being here and I want to congratulate the consumer group for this remarkable display of unity in this notoriously fractious community this is absolutely critical if we are all going to make this a reality that we all stand together. My question is about phase 2 since I think that’s going to be the hard one. I’d like to know a little bit about what strategies you are planning to employ to engage the policy makers to do more than nod their heads knowingly and say yes that is a very good goal. I think we need to be cognizant that we are in an age of austerity we are not in the 70s and 80s where governments want to on-load services now we are all about off-loading and more public private partnerships and having more charities even taking responsibility for things that used to be considered in the public sphere. I’d like to know that and related to that, I notice that one of the biggest groups of potential users that isn’t  at this table that I can see is the senior’s organizations. They strike me as maybe the one of the only groups that has the money and the political power to help us get this done so I would like to know as well what is being done to engage that sector.

JR: Two great questions Neil. There is no science to that phase 2 from a government perspective it is more of an art than a science. We need a combination of political will along with a compelling story that involves a model that includes federal, provincial, municipal and private funding. So the first thing is you need to have a model that makes sense you also need a compelling story. The success that we have had in the last 2 years with the interim requirements to me says two things:  1. Governments in a lot of the provinces and at the federal level do realize that this is a compelling argument, if it was not a compelling argument we would not have received interim funding.  2. When we get together as a united community within our area of Canadians who are blind or partially sighted and we did that through the right to read campaign, we had 35,000 emails that were sent to government officials in a period of 2 weeks that was real turning point in being able to achieve what we did.  And I think to your point, Neil, if we are able to create a level of cohesion within the community even it is just with this one issue although there’s many other things that we may not agree on, even awe can get agreement by consultation on the principles of we want to achieve for the future of library services I think we have got a good opportunity to make something happen. It’s not a guarantee a good option.  In terms of seniors organizations almost 80% of the clients we serve in our library are over the age of 80. So we have a very large senior seniors community. We have an epidemic of aging that is taking place over the next 25 years we’ve been in conversations with the public health agency about their senior strategy and we have had conversations with the leadership at CARP, which is the Canadian Association of Retired People. I do believe that as a political voice seniors do need to play a very strong message and from that I think that our opportunity is to talk about that voting cohort moving forward and how important it’s going to be at a political will level and I do think that is something that we haven’t leveraged, we have leveraged well, but something we haven’t leveraged to its full potential so far.

Neil: I think it’s excellent that you’ve talked to CARP I think they are absolutely critical to have them at the table, I think we need them at the table at all levels during this process because they really do carry power particularly with the current federal government. It’s important for us to remember that a large percentage of the demographic that brought them to power is represented by CARP.  I think last brief point I’d make is I think the vision is great and I commend you on that and I think that is and important thing for us to have in our back pocket but I really think you need to think very seriously about the practical steps of this model about how this funding between all these levels of government and the private sector is actually going to be mended.

JR: No response

Sandy Clough – I work for CBM Canada as the manager of the talking library and for over 25 years we have been producing alternate format books on audio cassette tapes and in the last few years audible navigational audio (?) We also produce the Daisy 2.02 book ------ CNIB- very similar. How can the talking book library participate or contribute to the hub?

JR: I don’t know, but I know it can and we need to have a sit down with Lori and yourselves to figure out how. I have 20 questions for you of the top of my head now that I don’t have time to deal with now, so I will catch you at the end of this for sure. I appreciate the opportunity. Great thanks, Sandy.

SC: In the distribution of the format, is it only going to be in electronically digital download or will we still have the CDs?

JR: It will be in this would include CD Braille Audio, e-text, so all alternate formats need to be provided. Large print also needs to be a consideration. So any alternate format delivery needs to be a part of the hub.

Yin: I was living in Calgary and at that time I noticed they had a whole library back then on tape and CDs so it seems that British Columbia, the West Coast they seem to have that service part of their public library so do you know anything about that?

JR: Yes I do. All public libraries have some alternate format in their collection or have some audio that they have acquired and I think that if we had a central hub and if we aggregated what everyone already does have and put it all in once place we would already be further ahead that we are today. Nobody has a complete collection and while there are some public libraries- Vancouver is one, Winnipeg is one,  Ottawa has a good one, Toronto does, particularly in the urban areas there are some public libraries that already do have some reasonable collections, nowhere near the 100,000 titles that exist in the CNIB collection, but they still have good collections but there’s a huge gap between that and what’s available in rural areas and what we need is a hub that will ensure that library access isn’t determined based on your level of sight or your postal code in the country and someone in Northern Ontario or in rural Alberta is going to have the same content available to them as someone who is in urban Calgary or Vancouver.

Yin: In representing CBM Canada I feel that we really want to participate my role is the advocacy coordinator and we are trying to speak to the government regarding a national disability policy that hopefully this will be a part of. Therefore so any way that CBM Canada can contribute just let us know.

JR: Thank you Yin.

Lisa Detell: Pass

Debbie Galeski: Looking at the 3 phases of the project and we agree that it’s amazing to see this united group here from across the country if the technology is working, thanks Brian. My question is regarding the implementation of the phases.  First of all we know we don’t want to be in this business in the same way we are now but and it moves out of a model, how do we go about moving from a CNIB funded model to finding a person that a) wants to do it and b) transferring the knowledge to that organization or whatever it is that does it if we want to keep it non profit.   Would it not be easier to try and change the government policy to do this rather than to go this route?

JR: I don’t believe it would be easier to change the government policy at the moment. Our perspective is that it would be easier for us to leverage where we are in the process to go to the likely levels of funding at the provincial, municipal, and federal level to create a funding agreement so we can establish a new NGO for the delivery of it.  A big starting point from that would be a transfer of assets from CNIB a transfer of that intellectual property of the existing collections etc. potentially the transfer of assets of existing collections, etc from the CBM etc. and that becomes the starting point.  Its going to be -phase 3 is going to be very complicated that’s where you start dealing with what’s the governance and who structures this and until we have as the document said – until we have a clear “raison d’être” a clear reason for this hub to exist the principles the people agree on as to what is the value proposition this hub is going to deliver for Canada we cannot begin talking about how do we get to phase 3, because that is going to be difficult. But if we are approaching phase 3 with everyone agreeing for the reason and is signed on to this common vision we are trying to achieve and we’ve got people making commitments to provide funding for it then we are confident that we will find a way of solving that phase 3 figuring out what’s that governance structure but it isn’t going to be easy. We believe at the moment from the conversations we’ve had with the library and archives over the IELA process that the ultimate which is what we hoped would be the case and we all think would be our first choice which is something housed within the federal government- we don’t believe that’s going to happen which is why we are doing this which is why we said in the absence of a federally led initiative unless someone puts their hand up and says  actually I think we should take this on – we would be thrilled. We really would be thrilled.

DG: The danger of this and I always look at all sides is that when we do the knowledge transfer and everything gets put on to whatever organization takes it on and for whatever reason they don’t have the skill sets then we as users lose out, and that’s a very serious danger to think about and to how it’s determined I agree with him, I just hope I am around to see phase 3.

JR: I couldn’t agree with you more that that’s a danger. Everything we are doing is speaking about a model which will ensure that it is a better solution than the current solution which is CNIB doing another charitable model so it has to be better than what we are doing today.

DG: Have to sell it to you as better.

JR: There’s always an inherent risk when you transfer that responsibility and I understand that.

Robert Pearson – What do you see as the main tasks in Phase 1?

JR: The main tasks in Phase 1 are engaging stakeholders in understanding from this initial document - where are the gaps, where are the discrepancies, what level of consensus do we have from the various communities ultimately starting with the end user deliverable in terms of the principles that are here but also as we go through the stakeholders like the libraries, the educators, etc we need to gather information we need as many people to help us with this process as possible. We have a survey that’s going Canadians who are print disabled that will be ready in about a weeks time that will be sent out and we want as many people as possible to engage in that survey and we don’t want events like this to be it we want this to be the beginning of the dialogue. We need to know we are moving in the right direction because at some point fairly soon we’ll get to the beginning of next year and we need to say ok so this is the model and this is what we are doing work on creating and we need to go from where we are now which is concepts and proof of concepts stage to funders to ask for commitment.

Georgina Laniss: I think my question and I don’t know if it was captured is do we know what the funding model is now for all the phases in terms of being able to get there so if we are going forward do we have any preliminary estimates?

JR: So, I’m going to say no in one sense and I will qualify that. We know what CNIB spends today so if we use that as a starting point the answer is yes we have a preliminary because we can always use what we currently spend as a starting point but we don’t believe that is actually changing anything other than moving the responsibility and part of what the concept is to actually start closing the gap from this huge inequity in terms of only 5% of the content being available so we still, this phase that we are in at the moment is … the last discussion we had internally is getting down to building what that number looks like so we don’t know today whether we are asking for x or y dollars yet and we don’t know how that’s broken down by province but we know roughly what the starting point is because that’s what CNIB spends which is in very broad terms about $10 million a  year to provide library services.  So if we are spending 10 and that’s only providing a small portion of what we believe a library should provide, we would want this hub to have a budget that exceeds that.

GL: I was just thinking about it in the context of what you mentioned earlier, John, about $40 per person that the federal government and really -------- with because there is going to be a lot of initial money that is going to need to be able to bring it to that to even that sustainability which it may never be that in order and in accordance with the charter to actually bring that to what it really needs to be. That’s why I was asking that question because when approaching government and I know that this is all very been thought of, but in our discussion today is you know moving to that next level and bringing it all together with all those elements.

JR: Both Robert and Georgina represent AMI and the funding model under AMI is that they receive a certain number of cents I think it is 20 something cents per cable subscriber in order to provide accessible content through cable 888 for those on Rogers. That is very similar concept, if there was such a thing as CRTC for libraries, which we hoped library and archives would be, then there would be a funding model, which is what you have.  So I see where your perspective come in.

Undecipherable comment from GL.

Elizabeth Herdman: Are there any statutory requirements that library services be provided to citizens in Canada at all? To ensure the provision of library service and if there is would it be federal or provincial jurisdiction?

JR: I don’t think I’ve ever been asked a question where I am not a legal expert so I’m going to tap dance a bit. It is certainly a Charter right, but I am not sure if it is a provincial statute, specified to libraries that I know of, none that I know of Elizabeth, but above what would be a provincial statute would be the Charter of Rights, so it is a Charter right.

EH: I don’t think libraries are mentioned in the Charter.

JR: No they are not specified, so I don’t believe there is a statute in that sense, but it is a Charter right. And one of the things that has been discussed is if we are not successful in creating this what is the next step. Well the next step - would we need to do a Charter challenge in order to move this through a legislative a ---- point trying to create a legal process that might be what the next step looks like, but I don’t think there is anything called a statute that I’ve ever been aware of but I don’t pretend to be that I’m an expert on that.

EH: Are we targeting any ministry specifically for funding?

JR: At the provincial level, libraries fit within either cultural or education typically depending on the province. At the federal level there’s both cultural opportunities within what we’re talking about there’s innovation opportunities there are also multicultural opportunities and there’s also office of disabilities opportunities so there’s a number of different areas. So one of the things we do believe in approaching this model that we are talking about is to be more open minded to the type of funding model that would exist other than just in this bucket called library money. There’s a lot of innovation we are talking about we are talking about digital content we are talking about accessing content from other countries to provide content in multiple languages, which is a very multicultural content . There’s a lot of need for access of this type of service for communities and there’s rural development content possibilities so we are being more open minded than we have in the past on where the funding model might come from.

Anthony called for any further questions from those who haven’t had a chance to comment or question.

Denzell: You know how you say anywhere in the country, what about people who live up in Arctic Canada, the 3 territories.

JR: Including the territories, Denzel we provide service currently in Nunavut, in Yukon and in the Northwest Territories, so that’s a part of it. A lot of services in Canada both healthcare and social services run what I like to call a postal code lottery, depends where you live as to what you get and we need to try and create something that is not a postal code lottery, that doesn’t differentiate people on where they happen to live in the country. 

Mara: In a city like Toronto where we have a mayor who wants to cut libraries and funding, if we have a hub and if we have maybe a threat to funding to for the blind and when they are going to cut, they are going to cut services to the blind, and we want to have some legislation or something to ensure that if something like this starts that there’s no cuts to the services to the blind, the accessible books and accessible technology.

JR: I agree, I didn’t get a question there, Mara but I suggest you vote for a different mayor!

MW: we need to protect the hub from this sort of thing.

JR:  Partly it’s about - and it’s to Neil’s point about if we are more organized on issues and more vocal on issues we need to talk about what the voting block on what this issue represents and to be more ruthless in communicating that. And I think if you look at most recent elections in all provinces you only have half the people voting and you have only 40% of the people voting for the party that wins, which represents only 20% of the population. If we can be ruthless about messaging in those areas theres a political will that can come from that.

John’s last words: I’ll start by letting everybody know that my email details will be shared with anyone who participates on this and I am always open to receiving comments and questions and for whose that are within a commuting distance from wherever I happen to be, I always enjoy engaging a coffee and include a conversation so I don’t want this to be an event I want this to be the beginning of a dialogue.  We agree on the principles that we are trying to achieve here I believe and we are hoping that we are going to get as much feedback from end users so we can ensure that the document that we put together has had a clarity in it when we take it to that Phase 2 stage.

Donna’s final comments: To echo Neil’s sentiments it’s been a unified effort on the part of not just the AEBC but also the CWDO with Pat Seed out there the AEBC with the Haself (?) and Richard Marion. Our moderator, Jane is from the CBSA so this is not just one organization but 3 organizations that have come together and Anthony from AEBC. So I want to thank everybody for coming  today and thank John and Lori for being here today. Now we will get ready for the next session.

Session 3. 2:45 p.m.

Donna Jodhan, president for the Alliance of Equality of Blind Canadians introduced by Jane Blaine, Moderator.

Donna: Thank you Jane, and good afternoon everybody I would like to welcome you to this Town Hall Meeting, to all of our participants across the country, thank you very much for coming in. I’d also like to thank our hardworking committee:  Melanie Moore, Brian Moore, Richard Marion, Anthony Tibbs and Jane Blaine, who are our moderators for today. This is a joint effort of both CWDO (Citizens With Disabilities Ontario) and the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians. I’d also like to have a big welcome fro John Rafferty who is the President and CEO of the CNIB and to Laurie Sutay who is here with us today as well. I’d like to turn the floor over to Anthony or Jane to continue.

Anthony called upon John Rafferty to provide the background information for the meeting today.